Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation Kool Aid GlassMy parents are 100% Polish and had a lot of family in Poland.  In the 1970s, my dad was in close correspondence with them via letter. At that time, Poland was under communist rule, so my dad’s family did not have much. My dad wanted to send them a package that was small and compact, but would amount to a lot when opened.

He thought of different things he could send, and came up with the ultimate gift package of popping corn, Kool Aid powder, and peanut butter.

He sent the package and his family wrote him back with praise and appreciation (in Polish, as they did not speak English). So my dad kept sending packages every few months, making sure they always had enough in the house. And the family kept sending letters of thanks.

A few years later, my dad decided to go to Poland to visit his family. When he got there, he noticed that they had cupboards full of unopened peanut butter jars, popping corn, and Kool Aid powder.

Shocked, my dad asked, “Do you not like the things I’ve been sending? Why is there so much still here?”

“Oh,” his family responded, “no we are very grateful. But… we don’t know how to use it.”

They explained how they tried cooking the corn seeds, putting them in milk like cereal, boiling them… but they were very hard and hurt their teeth. Because they didn’t know to add sugar to the Kool Aid, it was very bitter. And the peanut butter…. well, it looked disgusting to them, especially not having any clue what it was.

My dad laughed and laughed. He immediately showed them to add sugar to the Kool Aid, how to cook the popping corn (although he actually didn’t know either, so he had to call my mom and follow her directions), and he ate the peanut butter in front of them to demonstrate that it was not only harmless, but delicious.

They were enlightened and overjoyed to learn about the Kool Aid and popping corn. As for the peanut butter, well…. they still refused to try it.


If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy this story about a menu item in Prague that might sell itself better with a different translation…


**Mike Tomasik is a mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper fighting a never ending battle for truth, justice and the American Flag. Ok not really, he’s just your typical loving father of 4 kids.